If you don't live in a Freeview area, but you still want access to digital TV for free then your options are limited, but thanks to ITV and the BBC from 2008 you should be able to get free high-definition TV anywhere in the UK
While high-definition television isn't an option over Freeview just yet, here's some exciting news from the BBC and ITV that will give us a new way to access hi-def material for free via satellite. Called Freesat, the scheme will provide digital TV to people who can't get Freeview services because of their geographical location and a simple way to get high-definition television.
Freesat has been on the cards for a while now, with an initial announcement some considerable time ago, but it's only now that the go-ahead has been given by the BBC Trust -- the group of people who get to veto bad ideas at the BBC. This means come 2008, you'll actually be able to get your hands on the kit -- a separate decoder box, much like your standard Freeview box now.
Sky has its own free system known as Freesat from Sky, which offers a box, dish and installation for £150. This service doesn't offer high definition though, and the hardware is Sky's, so you are tied to its relatively inflexible programme guide -- and there's little hope of PVR functionality. This new service will also offer a new raison d'etre to all those poor, neglected satellite dishes left on the walls of homes who've long since stopped subscribing to Sky.
The most exciting part of this announcement is it opens the door to high-definition television from all the main UK broadcasters. This is long overdue in the UK and will help fill our beautiful flat screens with something worthy of their glorious pixels. The hardware should be pretty flexible too, and that should mean hard-disk-based PVRs and cool interactive features.
Freesat will also help with the analogue switch-off -- at the moment parts of the UK can't get Freeview because they're outside the coverage area. As time goes on this situation will improve, but offering a different delivery platform will help those who live in remote areas.
We just hope some legislation is put in place to prevent the service becoming clogged up with a multitude of hi-def shopping channels. -Ian Morris